The Capybara

The other day we were all surprised to catch sight of a large animal roaming round our garden, and from time to time jumping into the river. We soon established that it was a capybara. Here he is standing next to my landing stage.

We eventually found out that he had escaped from Sir William and Lady McAlpine's estate at nearby Fawley Hill. His name is Jack and his partner is called Jill. I spoke to Lady McAlpine who told me he has escaped several times in the past. She didn't seem too worried and said as soon as the weather got a bit colder, or he wanted sex, he'd find his way back home. (Several miles I might add). Jack weighs about 100 kg and is about 3 feet long. A Capybara is the largest rodent in the world and originally comes from South America. They are very accomplished swimmers and can remain submerged for up to 5 minutes. Also they can sleep underwater with just their nose showing. Quite exciting for us at Marsh Mills. Luckily our apple tree is full of fruit right now - one of the capybara's favourite foods.

Last Sunday morning my young friend tripped over a doormat and before she knew what had happened her feet splayed out and she sprained both ankles - badly. Poor girl. She can't drive yet and move around without pain so our roles have been a little reversed - she's been looking after me during my recovery from operations. Now I'm doing a little to look after her. We've spent some time this last week adding to her new house. She's bought a copy of the latest Readers Digest do-it-yourself manual and has already put up curtain rails and coat hooks etc. but the planned house-warming party has had to be postponed due to her injuries.

It's all happening around here at the moment. The Gas Company are digging holes the whole way along our road to lay yellow plastic pipes to replace the existing metal ones, so apart from the current disruption, from next week the road will be completely closed for nearly 3 weeks and unfortunately the diversion to get home will be about 14 miles. And for the past month the insistent noise of the cam shedders from across the river has been driving us mad. (Cam shedding is the hammering of big steel flat poles into the river bank to halt erosion). With so many other road works going on in Henley right now I think the best thing to do is to close the town for a few months and do all the work in one go!

As far as painting is concerned my main task this week has been to repaint the portrait of the Royal Swan Marker to give him a really happy face. I just wish the quality of smooth watercolour paper and board had not deteriorated lately. In the past I could have achieved as fine a line as sharp as I can when painting on vellum, but no more. If anyone out there knows of a really smooth watercolour paper (that will take a wash as well as ultimate pin-sharp detail) I'd be very grateful to know the name.

We went for a short cruise down the river on Saturday afternoon and opposite Temple Island saw the preparations underway for this weekend's Rewind Festival. Here are some of the wigwams already erected and I assume the pink tents are for ladies.